Posted on April 22, 2015 by David Derin
This week we will be reading the double parsha of Ahrei Mot-Kedoshim. This week’s reading come on the heels of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon. When reading the parsha, my mind went immediately to these deaths. I could not help but draw a comparison between these week’s parsha, which is in some ways about how we move on from a national tragedy, to Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day), the days we currently find ourselves celebrating.
As I began to look at the parsha on a deeper level, I was concerned that I had imagined this connection. The double parsha Ahrei Mot-Kedoshim deals greatly with issues of ritually purifying oneself after having become impure, going into great detail about the rituals of Yom Kippur. From here the conversation moves to a discussion of sacrifices. I thought to myself, “Aha! Here is my connection. The soldiers whom we are remembering and celebrating today made the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives for the good of the nation. Without their sacrifice, our nation could not exist.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was probably a stretch.
So I continued to search for my connection. And then I found it.
In Sefer Vayikra Chapter 16 we read of the rituals that Aharon is to conduct in order to bring about purity. But the actions of the Cohen HaGadol are not solely for himself or his family. Just like the soldiers that are being remembered today, and the sacrifices they made, what is being brought by Aharon in our parsha are sacrifices that are meant not only for himself and his family, but for the nation as a whole.
Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut are days that in Israel it does not matter where on the political spectrum one falls. The entire nation is, for at least these two days, to be a single, unified entity. For two days people put aside their differences and stand together. This is not something that I truly felt until I made Aliyah to Israel and drafted into the IDF. In America I always knew that it was Yom HaZikaron or Yom Ha’Atzmaut, but when I became a soldier here, these days took on a new meaning. Like the rest of the country I became removed from somebody who had fallen by one degree. As my service continued, the number of people I feel connected to on Yom HaZikaron, the number of people who put their lives on the line so that I could make my life in Israel has continued to grow. Last night I stood at a ceremony, surrounded by Israelis, thinking about the people who sacrificed themselves for the country that I love so deeply. I found myself thinking of my fellow lone soldiers who did not need to come to Israel and serve, but chose to do so despite the risks it would pose to their physical well being.
As I stood at the ceremony, thinking about how without the sacrifices of these brave young men and women the country I: so love may not be here, I found myself thinking about what we will be celebrating beginning tonight. How is it that Israel goes immediately from Yom HaZikaron into Yom Ha’Atzmaut? How is it that we can go from a day of such darkness to one filled with so much light? I found my answer in Sefer Vayikra, Chapter 19:
יז לֹא-תִשְׂנָא אֶת-אָחִיךָ, בִּלְבָבֶךָ; הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ אֶת-עֲמִיתֶךָ, וְלֹא-תִשָּׂא עָלָיו חֵטְא. יח לֹא-תִקֹּם וְלֹא-תִטֹּר אֶת-בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ, וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ: אֲנִי, יְהוָה.
17You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him.18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the Lord. (JPS Trans.)
For Israelis these are two days in which everybody is everybody else’s brother or sister. Everyone feels both the same joy on Yom HaZikaron, over the loss of so many young people before their full potential could be realized. Everyone feels the same joy on Yom Ha’Atzmaut in our celebrating the establishment and continued existence as a nation and country. For two days, as we are instructed to do in this week’s parsha, we do not hate our kinsfolk. For two days we do not seek vengeance or bear a grudge against each other.
Just as Ahrei Mot-Kedoshim in many ways is about how, together, the Israelites are instructed to create a holy community, that is what these days in Israel are all about. As I looked around last night at those attending the ceremony with me, I could not help but feel that I was in a holy place. If only for last night and today, the country stands together, unified. To me, this is incredibly holy. But it is not just Yom HaZikaron. It is also Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Tonight and tomorrow, as across the country people light their barbeques, I also will feel a sense of holiness. For the 67th time, the entire country will be coming together to celebrate Israel’s independence.
May we all strive to continue to create holiness together, as a singular people.
יהי זכרם ברוך.
יום העצאות שמח!